Insight Under the Waves: when the creators of Detroit Become Human and White Night meet, it sparks!
Not really in the hollow of the wave, Quantic Dream is – also – publisher and finances the new game from Parallel Studio. A title that responds to the name of Under the Waves and which, let’s say it, is one of our favorites from Gamescom.
With Under the Waves, Quantic Dreams and Parallel Studio seem to have found each other well. The narrative game specialist is in fact teaming up with a developer who loves “atmosphere” games and to whom we owe the astonishing White Night in 2015, a true tribute to the roots of survival-horror. This new project is very different, whether in terms of universe or gameplay. Exit the haunted house, welcome to the deep sea…. And loneliness.
Set in the 70s, somewhere in the North Sea, Under The Waves bets on alternate history, with a slightly different past, where technology is a little more advanced and robots more developed. However, the “retro” aesthetic is still there, with a pronounced taste for cathode-ray screens, rusty pipes and “beep-beeps” on a green background.
An open, story-driven underwater world
It is in this context that we play Stan, a professional diver employed by an oil company and who must join an underwater base. We therefore begin by reaching a bathyscaphe before sinking into the depths of the North Sea, while remaining in constant contact with a colleague named Tim. This is how we discover the gameplay of Under the Waves, based on diving exploration, but also on foot. Parallell Studio has thus created a “small” open world that can be explored at leisure, which will allow you to dig a little deeper into the universe and the narration, but without the shortcomings of the genre (no additional activities based on mini games).
It will be possible, once at the bottom of the water, to walk on the ground, but at any time, the player can press a button to switch to “swimming” mode and thus be much more free to move. This allows a very free and very vertical exploration, with in addition a pleasant and intuitive handling, which is ultimately rather rare in a scuba diving context. The half-hour demo tried asked us to join an underwater base, which will serve as our base throughout the adventure. We went through somewhat dilapidated and dark underwater installations, unlocked a few doors by means of huge valves, all with an absolutely delightful soundscape in our ears. The underwater noises are very elaborate and the atmospheric soundtrack, although not booming, accompanied the action perfectly.
More Firewatch than Subnautica
In terms of scenario, Parallel Studio seems to want to explore several tracks, often with an underlying message. First of all, there is an ecological aspect and we sense that working for an oil company is not insignificant. However, the developers wanted to keep this aspect in the background – but still present in the background – with, for example, the possibility of collecting, or not, its used oxygen cartridges in order to recycle them.
The other point highlighted in Under the Waves is the hero’s loneliness and his relationship to others. During our demo, we thus caught a glimpse of the complex relationships between Stan and his wife, where the first leaves a message full of unspoken words to the second. We feel a deep wound in the diver and the desire for the studio to deepen human relations, like the excellent Firewatch.
And the last point, which perhaps follows from the second, is the “psychological thriller” aspect of the adventure, highlighted by the incredible final plan of the demo. The progression of Under the Waves is divided into days, so each day ends with Stan going to bed. The end of the demo thus showed us the protagonist going to bed, but waking up on a stretch of road, still underwater and facing a gigantic whale. Probably a dream, we think, but the fact that Stan doesn’t understand what he’s doing there casts doubt on the character’s sanity.
In short, this first contact with Under the Waves was able to seduce us with some strong shots, accurate dialogues and a most successful atmosphere. A game to watch if you like diving, taciturn marines and red caps.
Under the Waves is a title still full of mysteries, but the atmosphere posed during these 30 minutes of demo were enough to hoist it among our biggest expectations for the coming months. Underwater exploration game in a semi-open world, the title of Parallel Studio and Quantic Dreams however has nothing to do with Subnautica or Abzu, but seems to be eyeing more on the side of Firewatch on the narration side. His universe is however very much his own, taking place in the uchronic 70s full of an obvious retrofuturist charm. We now hope to be just as caught up when the game is released next year, on PC, PS5, Xbox Series, PS4 and Xbox One.